The drawing was executed during his four-month stay in Morocco between late January and mid-June 1832. This sojourn, certainly Delacroix's most prolific period, proved to be of very influential on the artist's style and choice of subject. From that year on he continuously drew on his Moroccan experience and used a great number of sketches that he had made in Africa for many of his most successful compositions: A Street in Meknes, painted in the year of his return; The Women in Algiers in their Apartment of 1834; Moroccan Chieftain receiving Tribute of 1837; The Sultan of Morocco and his Entourage of 1845; and his last picture An Arab Camp at Night. All together, Delacroix painted nearly one hundred Arab subjects.
Delacroix's fascination with the Orient did not begin with his journey in Morocco but was already present in his earlier works, such as The Massacre at Chios, finished in 1824, and The Death of Sardanapalus, painted in 1827. Nonetheless, Delacroix's arrival in Tangiers on 25 January 1832 was a shock which he described in a letter written on the day of his arrival to his friend Jean-Baptiste Pierret: 'We landed in the midst of the strangest crowd of people. The Pasha of the city received us, surrounded by his soldiers. One would need twenty arms and forty-eight hours a day to give any tolerable impression of it all...At the moment I am like a man in a dream, seeing things he's afraid will vanish from him', A. Sérullaz, Delacroix in Morocco, exhib. cat., Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, 1995, pp. 130-1.
Delacroix, who never trusted his memory, wrote to his friend Pierret from Tangiers: 'I am even sure that the considerable sum of curious information that I shall bring back from here will be of little use to me...my mind will have forgotten its impressions', Sérullaz, op. cit., p. 116. To record his impressions Delacroix drew countinuously and brought back thousands of drawings of figures, ceremonies, objects, buildings, most of which he annotated. Many of these studies were kept in albums and served as an important source of inspiration for the artist for the next thirty years.
Of the seven albums included in Delacroix's sale, four still remain intact: three are now in the Louvre and one in Chantilly, bought by the Duc d'Aumale in the 1864 sale.
Delacroix went to Morocco with the Embassy of the Comte de Mornay to the Moroccan Sultan Muley-abd-el-Rahman. When Algeria became a French protectorate in 1830 the French government wanted to conclude a peace treaty with their neighbour, the Sultan of Morocco. To this end Charles de Mornay was sent out to negotiate boundaries, the restitution of boats and the resolution of commercial problems.
Mornay met Delacroix probably through his mistress Mademoiselle Mars, or through Armand Bertin or Charles-Edmond Duponchel, all influential friends of Delacroix. When Mornay asked Delacroix to accompany him, the artist accepted although he had to pay for his own expenses.